I had the honor to interview the beautiful Kaori Fukui. Coming from Japan, Kaori has had a wonderful experience dancing in the United States and has inspired a lot of dancers, including me.
I met Kaori at Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida while still in the school. Now, she dances with Nevada Ballet Theatre. Here is our conversation:
CS: How did you start in ballet?
KF: "I started when I was five. My mom loves ballet, but I don’t remember how I got in. My school was very close to my house and it is a very famous school in Japan."
CS: What is your best memory of those first years?
KF: "When I first went on pointe shoes! I was very excited and so happy."
CS: Talking about that, do you remember your first pointe class?
KF: "Yes, I remember! My teacher used to say, "Kaori, don't go on pointe, just demi-pointe” so I could practice and roll-through. When she saw that it was good, then she allowed me to go on pointe."
CS: Have you had some difficulties, some steps that were too hard?
KF: "For me, it is the flexibility: développés and high legs. So I practice a lot and do exercises at home so I can improve my flexibility."
CS: Have you had injuries? How did you handle them?
KF: "The first time, I think it was when I was fifteen. Before I danced, I went on pointe and I felt my foot going, crack! Then I went to the doctor as soon as I could, got some rest time and finally physical therapy to get stronger. This was the worse injury I have had."
CS: Do you have any funny memory before or during a performance?
KF: "Oh! When I was 14, I was dancing Paquita in the corp. In the coda, I felt that my pointe shoe was getting loose. When everything finished and we were taking the bows, I realized that it was my ribbon. It was so funny and nerve-racking!"
CS: How is your routine on performance days?
KF: "It is simple. We take class and after that, I do my makeup and eat dinner or lunch. I take a small barre and stretch to warm up just before the performance starts. Then, if I have time, I only relax and concentrate before going onstage."
CS: What is your favorite ballet and why?
KF: "My favorite ballet is Don Quixote. I really like the story and love the costumes. Kitri has a different character approach with her costumes, wearing a long skirt at the beginning, and a tutu at her wedding. I really like that. I also love the music!"
CS: Do you have any dancer that inspires you?
KF: "I really like Tamara Rojo! Her technique is perfect and it seems that dancing is easy for her!"
CS: Tell us about your experiences in ballet companies.
KF: "The first company I worked is located in New Jersey. It is a very small company and I just went there for about two months. Then I came here (Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida) until now. This year I will join a ballet company in Oregon." CS: After Oregon, Kaori currently dances with Nevada Ballet Theatre.
CS: What is the difference between the school where you started and the place that you are right now (in terms of styles)?
KF: "It is very different! I learned R.A.D. in Japan. In here (ABTF), the technique is very different, Vaganova. However, I think this is very good for me."
CS: How was your process from being a ballet student into becomiong a professional dancer?
KF: "When I was 17, I went to a ballet competition in which they gave me like apprentice position into a company in Japan, so I could dance in the corps of ballet. Then, I tried to send emails to audition at other companies, but I could not get a contract, so I stayed in Japan until I tried again. I don’t like the companies in Japan because they don’t dance a lot like here. Finally, I found an open audition in New York and the company in New Jersey hired me. After two months, I tried again and ABTF offered me a contract."
CS: What do you think about ballet competitions?
KF: "I think they are good because you can see other people of the same age. You can compare yourself to see how you are doing. You can also talk and with other people, and also you have the opportunity to be seen by ballet companies and get potential scholarships or a new job."
CS: One last advice to those young dancers that hope to dance professionally?
KF: "You need to practice a lot, but you also have to think. Not only make steps but think of what you are doing. Also, you have to look other dancers and go out of your comfort zone, like that you can find the right place for you."